County’s Financial Resource Director Cannot Maintain State Court Suit for Her Termination From Employment

December 19, 2019

We have twice previously wrote about the litigation between the former Vermilion County Financial Resource Director Nikki Bogart and the Vermilion County Board Chairman and County when the defendants won summary judgment and the appeal.

Bogart originally filed suit in federal court alleging First Amendment and Equal Protection claims arising from her termination from employment with the County. She alleged that she was fired for political reasons by a new County Board Chairman a few months after he took office. The federal district court and the Seventh Circuit of Appeals found in favor of the County and Chairman, holding that political affiliation and loyalty was a bona fide job requirement for the position. The federal courts declined to rule on her state law claims under the Illinois Local Government Employees Political Rights Act, retaliatory discharge, and other claims. Bogart refiled the case was in state court to pursue these claims.

Defendants moved to dismiss her state court complaint in its entirety. In a 17-page order, Judge Tracy Resch granted the motion on the grounds that the (now former) Chairman was entitled to discretionary immunity for Bogart’s termination. Judge Resch held that the federal court’s determination that Bogart’s position was one of policymaking and political importance controlled this litigation under the doctrine of collateral estoppel and Bogart could not re-litigate the issue of whether political affiliation was a bona fide job requirement. Thus, the Chairman was entitled to use his discretion to appoint a political ally in the position of Financial Resource Director. Additionally, Judge Resch found that Bogart’s state law claims for damages (which were not alleged in the federal litigation) were barred by the one-year statute of limitations applicable to damages claims against local governments and government employees. Since she filed her initial federal complaint more than one year past her termination, these claims were barred.

Mike Condon and Yordana Wysocki represented the Chairman and County in the litigation. Bogart v. Marron, No. 19-L-15 (Order 12/11/19)


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